Thinking Out Loud

December 17, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Alien Mormons

The two Mormon missionaries in artist Brook Robertson’s piece “Zion / Rocky Mountain Alliance” look determined. The figures are both wearing crisp white shirts and ties, resolutely staring forward as their vehicle heads towards it destination. Such a statue normally wouldn’t be out of place in Salt Lake City — the worldwide headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Except for the fact that the vessel is a spaceship. And one of the missionaries has the bright blue skin of a sharply-dressed alien. CLICK the image to read the full story at Huffington Post.


Time to catch up what’s been happening in Linkland. First, the Friday PARSE column from last week:

  • Not Home for the Holidays – A woman in ministry writes her mom, “You didn’t sign up for this strange and wonderful life your daughter has chosen. You have not made any vows to the church. We young clergy women know that it isn’t always fair how our pastoral vocations impact our loved ones, from missing holidays with our extended families to spending too many evenings away from our kids to seldom being able to go away for the weekend with our spouses… Broadway stars have to work Friday and Saturday nights, tax preparers have to work long hours in March and April, pyrotechnicians have to work on Independence Day, and pastors have to work on Christmas and Easter.”
  • Churches Losing Career Women – We frequently encounter articles about the church losing the male demographic, or losing youth, but this one offers an entirely fresh perspective. Why are working women disconnecting? The article is a mix of stats, theory and practical concerns. “‘The existing programs for women don’t align with my work schedule or my needs.’ – We often hear professional women in the church say they would rather go to the men’s 6:30 a.m. group events because of scheduling and content, but can you imagine if they went strolling into one? …[T]he women’s events are scheduled during the workday or at other times that a busy working woman who is putting in 40+ hours at work plus running a home plus often mothering children and getting them to school, arts and athletics, etc. just can’t make it.” This makes a good discussion starter for church leaders.
  • Twenty for 2015  – Tony Morgan’s ideas and opinions do you make you think: “#6 Once a church gets beyond a few hundred people, it’s really dysfunctional for boards and committees to be involved in day-to-day decision-making around purchases, facility maintenance and staffing issues… #9 Every church should be actively planning to add a service, add a campus or plant a church…  #12 Shared leadership doesn’t work. When all the leaders are equal, no one is leading…#18 Every church should do a marriage series, a money series and a series on life purpose every year…” In total, twenty, some of which he admits are politically incorrect.
  • The Recognition and Function of Spiritual Gifts – A look at common misconceptions and questions raised by the topic of unique, individual talents: “A few believers have not fully appreciated, or embraced, their gifts because they were ones that did not appear to require some mysterious spin to its explanation. So they did not think very highly of those as spiritual gifts. So then, we tend to see how a vibrant biblical teacher could have a spiritual gift but not a skilled church administrator… So, what happens when we are outside of the walls of the church? … One who is blessed with wise counsel or sympathy does not automatically become unsympathetic or full of foolish advice when they are, say, with a colleague at workplace instead of at church.”  Responding to a variety of questions people will ask.
  • Crossing Theological Categories – Samuel James has been blogging on the Evangelical channel of Patheos for just a few days past one year. He’s been flooded with readers on a recent piece on Rob Bell, who he notes is a product of the Emergent movement but now espouses a teaching that is perhaps more in line with Pentecostalism, “which, of course, ends up making sense, since that’s exactly the kind of preaching that Oprah Winfrey seems partial to.” He observes, “Bell has now become the very thing he once decried;” and suggests something important regarding the people of Mars Hill Grand Rapids, Bell’s former church, “I feel a measure of sadness for those people; they have to feel a bit betrayed right now.” With all the attention given this, don’t miss James’ analysis in defending Dr. Russell Moore.
  • When the Translators Finish, Everyone Gets a Book, Right? – Growing up in a missions saturated church, I always thought that a printed Bible was the end product of every translation project. But orality, not literacy, is the norm in nearly half of the world. The problem is that traditionally, tech solutions involved moving parts that rusted quickly in many parts of the world, and batteries which wore out. Today, the face of Bible distribution involves unsung organizations such as Galcom and Megavoice using microchip content and solar powered devices to relay Bible content in dialects most of us have never heard of.  This video isn’t new, but gives the backstory.
  • Should Religious Scholars Be Tackling Climate Change? - Last week the New York Times reported that the American Academy of Religion (AAR) would be taking a sabbatical from its annual meeting every seventh year in the interest of saving the planet. One writer disagrees with this emphasis: “The real problem is that [AAR President] Zoloth has been drawn in by the challenge of her scientist colleagues at Northwestern, who apparently asked what the study of religion was doing about climate change… Must every discipline have some significant contribution to make to every social problem we face? Maybe, as an academic discipline we ought to show a little more humility. As much as we find it irresistible to pontificate, maybe there are times when a particular academic discipline needs to get out of the way and let those better placed get on with the work.”
  • Not Everyone Shares The Spirit of the Season – “As the spirit of generosity increases in the weeks leading up to Christmas, so do break-ins and thefts. Churches are not immune from the threat. In fact they may be easy targets during the holidays… ‘The major problem with a lot of churches is not that they do not recognize the need for security,’ [security expert Jerry] Turpen said. ‘They either procrastinate or they develop the attitude of ‘this won’t happen at our church.’ Churches must decide if it’s worth the risk not to take the threat seriously.'”
  • Bonus Link: Although the original story is two years old, making the rounds again is the marginal notes — complaints is a better word — that monks wrote in the margins of manuscripts they were copying.

Next, we have what’s appearing on PARSE today:

  • Having Church with Buffalo Wings - First it was movie theaters, now it’s restaurant chains. “When Riverchase United Methodist Church announced they would hold church services in a local Buffalo Wild Wings, they probably hoped to make a splash in the city of Hoover. I doubt they knew the move would inspire a top ten list on David Letterman…Christians need to abandon the idea of holy buildings and holy sites. Our church buildings are not the New Testament fulfillment of the Old Testament temple. Jesus is… We meet with God not in a physical building, but through Jesus who gave his life for us.”  A concise look at a breaking story.
  • Your Church’s Story, and the Surrounding Community Story – “From mega churches to house churches to traditional churches to community churches, the diversity in expression for the people of God in cities is vast. Yet amidst all the diversity, there is one commonality among North American urban churches: they all exist within a changing religious culture. Whether a church chooses to adapt, engage, withdraw or reject such change, they can’t deny that the church’s role in culture is in fact changing.” A short look at two churches in Vancouver, Canada that find the larger community around them undergoing dramatic shifts.
  • Redeeming ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ - Evangelicals generally disdain the popular carol for having no basis in scripture, however: “Worshipers of Jesus (like the magi) compel their neighbors (like the drummer boy) to consider Jesus — to come and see him, as it were. And when the neighbors do, if they would believe, a moment happens when they realize their bankruptcy is exposed. They see Jesus and comprehend his glory, and then they look at themselves: But I am broken. I am empty and poor. I’ve got nothing to bring this King that even comes close to representing the honor that is due him.” This Desiring God commentary helps us see the carol in a new light.  Which brings us to…
  • Why So Many Seasonal Songs are Written by Jewish Musicians – “In their music and lyrics, Jews captured Christmas not only as a wonderful, wintry time for family gatherings, but also as an American holiday. What they drew on, said Rabbi Kenneth Kanter, an expert on Jews and popular culture at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, was their background as the children of European-born Jews, or as immigrants themselves, in the case of Russian-born Berlin and others.” Why not Hanukkah songs? “Although celebrating the birth of Christ was not something these Jewish songwriters would want to do, they could feel comfortable composing more secular Christmas singles.”
  • Christianity without Christmas – “Some ‘conservative Quakers,’ said Chris Pifer, a spokesman for the Friends General Conference, one of several national Quaker groups, refuse to observe Christmas at all, under the “every day is a holy day” rubric. But not all of the nation’s 33,000 Quakers share that stance…Perhaps the most conspicuous of Christmas-shunners are Jehovah’s Witnesses, millennialists whose ranks include 1.9 million members in the United States. Although the group initially observed Dec. 25 as a holiday, church spokesman J.R. Brown said from the church’s Brooklyn, New York, headquarters, further study by one official in 1928 led them to drop the observance.” All this and more from a Mormon news website.
  • Why Teenagers aren’t Sharing their Faith – “[W]e have an almost irrepressible appetite for doing outreach events instead of mobilizing our teenagers to be the outreach event… Of course, outreach events are fine and good and needed from time to time. But if they are replacing, rather than enhancing, our teenagers’ personal evangelism efforts then they are limiting our true outreach effectiveness.” Seven points in total, but all of these could apply just as easily to adults. Which leads us to…
  • Christ Centered Youth Ministry - This article could also apply to Children’s ministry or various adult departments of your church. So imagine you’re a youth pastor, only a few weeks on the job, when a parent corners you in the office with this: “As a father, I take the role of instilling Christ into the lives of my children very seriously. Because of that responsibility I want to make sure that my kids are involved in a youth program that is Jesus-focused. So tell me, why I should trust you and the program you run?”
  • Slain in the Spirit - When I first saw this video I was sure it was faked. Think of Benny Hinn throwing his suit jacket at people, only ramped up exponentially. The pastor, Chris Oyakhilome, has his own page on Wikipedia which states that he is, “a Nigerian minister who is the founding president of Believers’ LoveWorld Incorporated also known as “Christ Embassy”, a Bible-based Christian ministry headquartered in Lagos… Pastor Chris’ ministry has expanded rapidly beyond coasts of Nigeria and South Africa, and he now holds large meetings in the United states and has Healing school sessions in Canada, and United Kingdom.” The one-minute video is entitled, “Watch as Pastor Uses Invisible Power to Knock Down Church Members.” (Hopefully, this isn’t the only Christianity people in that country see.)

During the week, I save links just for this part of the list. So don’t think of these as the cutting room floor from the PARSE links…

Christmas Mass at Saturday Night Live

If church is just an annual thing for you or your family, you might relate to this SNL skit. Click to watch at Relevant.





December 11, 2014

Thursday Link List

Filed under: links, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:26 am
Mary's Press Conference

Mary’s Press Conference

Sometimes I find myself collecting links for Wednesday and then I reach a point where I just can’t stop, like those perpetual motion machines, or those guys in Asia who kept fighting a war long after it had ended.

Christmas in the NavPress lobby

Christmas in the NavPress lobby: Most (but not all) of the ‘tree’ is various editions of The Message Bible

December 10, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Filed under: links — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:28 am
I left getting the upper image to the last minute, so you'll have to settle for this picture of watermelon shaped raisin bread. Click the image to watch the instruction video.

I left getting the upper image to the last minute, so you’ll have to settle for this picture of watermelon shaped raisin bread. Click the image to watch the instructional video.

First here are some things from Friday’s PARSE column:

  • It’s a Christmas Miracle – Yes, I know; the rule in journalism is that you usually end with the feel-good story. But this one couldn’t wait: “When a young Filipino girl received a Christmas gift-filled shoebox in 2000, she couldn’t have imagined that one day she would meet the 7-year-old boy from Idaho who packed the box in a small town 7000 miles away. And, she never dreamed that she would marry the American boy, now grown up, 14 years later.” The story even has a letter that was never received. Where do I option the rights to this?
  • The End of Religion – The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the country’s public broadcaster, seems to be targeting one particular part of its Radio National (RN) schedule for cuts: “RN is the home of specialization at the ABC, and religion has been one of its signature specializations, because of the public broadcaster’s ‘cultural diversity’ charter obligation, and the fact that, often and increasingly, there is a deeper religious or spiritual explanation to what is happening in our world that eludes most, if not all, other mainstream media. Yet religion is a particular target of the ‘reshaping’, with a 40 per cent staff loss compared to 10 per cent in other RN program areas.”
  • What the Evening News Means to the Church – Our ears hear “ISIS captured the city;” but we don’t really know what that means in practical terms. “Since taking over Mosul on June 10, Aina News reports that ISIS has destroyed, occupied, converted to mosques, converted to ISIS headquarters or shuttered all 45 Christian institutions in Mosul.” The list includes Catholic, Orthodox and even a Presbyterian Church.  One goes back to the 8th Century.
  • Losing My Denomination – It wasn’t just sexuality or gender issues that led entire congregations to exit.  “Among the broader, longstanding concerns that convinced departing congregations that they no longer had a home in their denominations that Carthage College researchers found were: ‘Bullying’ tactics by denominational leaders;  a perceived abandonment of foundational principles of Scripture and tradition; and the devaluation of personal faith. ‘The ones that left said reform was not possible,’ said Carthage sociologist Wayne Thompson, study leader.” The study focused on churches exiting the PCUSA and ELCA.
  • Everyone’s Overwhelmed but Nobody’s Whelmed – So also with the idea of privilege. I have a friend who says if you’re going to be poor, it’s better to do it in a poor country. In the West, perspectives get confused. “All my life I’ve heard the term “underprivileged.” It was used when we talked about people in impoverished countries or children who needed assistance with school lunches. I’ve never heard anyone take exception to the term. But for some reason when you bring up the idea there are people who are privileged, folks get real bent out of shape. This seems a little crazy to me since you can’t have people who are underprivileged without having people who are privileged.” Jayson Bradley brings a broad worldview and encourages the church to “break out of our intellectual, theological, and sociological cul-de-sacs.”
  • Exciting Ministry Opportunities for Women – At the Seminary Wives Institute of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, those opportunities include courses in Ministry of Hospitality (including etiquette and menu planning) and Hymn Playing (accompanying the congregation at the pianoforte.) But what if it’s the woman who feels called to ministry leadership and it’s the husband who is the supportive spouse? At the blog Spiritual Sounding Board looking at the SBTS options, writer Julie Anne was simply not amused.
  • Any Excuse for a Party – The NIV Bible was first published in New Testament form in 1973 and in a complete version in 1978. So it’s time already for its 50th anniversary. You do the math. Expect 2015 to contain a greater spotlight on issues in scripture translation, such as this summary of a presentation given by Dr. Douglas Moo, chair of the Committee on Bible Translation on the need to go beyond a “word-for-word” translation philosophy. You can read a live blog at BibleGateway, or a shorter summary at Zondervan. To be fair, it is the 50th anniversary of the commissioning of the project though Wikipedia traces its roots to 1956.
  • Another Christmas in Prison for Saeed – Given the U.S. penchant for attaching all manner of unrelated spending initiatives to a single government bill, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that the situation involving jailed American pastor Saeed Abedini in Iran is now enmeshed with the nuclear talks with that country. His wife, Naghmeh Abedini states, “I am beyond heartbroken… While I have never wanted my husband to be a pawn in these political negotiations, I recognize that his freedom might be tied to our government being able to reach a final deal.  The thought of waiting another seven months for resolution sounds unbearable at this time.” Saeed is part of the nightly prayer list at our home; Fox News recounts the backstory.
  • One for the Road – When someone leaves 3,600 provocative blog comments in 12 months, he has enough profile, right? Someone thought Atheist Max and others like him deserved to be the subject of an interview.

And here are some things from today’s PARSE column:

  • The Why of Church Social Media – Why you need to work harder to connect people to your church: “Back in the day, back in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, whatever, you would have multiple touchpoints each week with the people from your church.  They’d come on Sunday morning, they would possibly come on Sunday night, they would come on Wednesday, and then there might be one more event during the week that they would come to.  So you would have four touchpoints to get information to them, to announce things to them.  Whereas now, if they’re in the demographic where I am here in Phoenix, we’re lucky to get families to show up to a Sunday morning twice a month.  And so we look at social to make up the difference.” A 48-min podcast that’s worth the time investment.
  • On Having Teacher’s Pets – Jesus built into a select group of twelve, and of those, gave extra attention to three key team members. Most of us have an ideal of being open to everyone. “The most effective leaders play favorites. They don’t treat everyone the same; won’t give access to everybody; spend very little time with low performers or problem people. Most of us want to do the opposite. We long to treat everyone the same; give access to everyone who asks; spend much of our time trying to help problem people or low performers because, well, it’s the right thing to do.” Three ways to play favorites effectively.
  • Preaching Your Way Through 2015 – What does the new year look like in terms of sermon series? Maybe facing a new calendar year leaves you wishing your church used the Common Lectionary. Here’s one perspective: “To be honest, I’ve never thought about my process. Since this is another area about which the Bible is quiet, there is room for many different approaches. What I realized in thinking through my process is that my preaching calendar is the result of answering five questions.”
  • Word-for-Word Narrated Gospels on Netflix – Unlike The Visual Bible which only covered Matthew and John, the creators of The Lumo Project are promoting the availability of all four gospels in different translations and languages, as well as distribution of all four feature-length films through Netflix. But one reviewer notes, “The entire film is simply narrated. Yes. The actors are “playing out” the scenes being described but they are not the ones speaking the dialogue. And maybe it’s just me, but I find that an incredibly dull way to present the dynamic and rich story which is found in scripture. I’m going to assume the decision to have a narrator read the entire thing is down to offering three available “versions” of the movie. Personally, I’d have rather they pick one and allow the actors to bring these words to life. Basically, The Lumo Project: Gospel of John is a really expensive version of a passion play.”
  • Reinventing Christian Television – You know the drill: You buy time on Christian networks or you buy time on local stations on Sunday mornings. For Andy Stanley, a lot depends on what you mean by Sunday morning, as they are on in 13 NBC selected markets after Saturday Night Live. This past weekend, instead of sermon material, they broadcast a live interview with Tindell Baldwin, author of Popular (Tyndale). In her words, “I wrote a goodbye letter to God letting him know I wouldn’t be needing his services anymore.” As Andy explains, “Rather than bury her embarrassing past, she would leverage it for the next generation.” Watch the Dec. 7th episode, a perfect use of an ideal time slot.
  • What’s in a Name? - A complaint to the city of Piedmont, Alabama sent by the Freedom From Religion Foundation meant the end of the ‘Keep Christ in Christmas Parade,’ but only insofar as it was the parade’s name. “The title of the parade was changed back to the City of Piedmont Christmas Parade by city officials. Residents of the city decided to exercise their freedom of religion and speech Thursday night during the parade with their signs that read ‘Keep Christ in Christmas’. ‘This anti-religious group that started all this stuff, I really believe this has backfired on them,’ [Piedmont Mayor] Baker told WJSU. ‘What has happened now is the city of Piedmont…has rallied. They have caused our parade to be bigger and better with more emphasis placed on Christianity.'”
  • The Miracle Crusade Continues - I didn’t realize people were still tracking with Benny Hinn. One writer decided to check out his New York event. “From the musician to his audience to the very God he claims to represent, Hinn exerts control over it all. He orders his pianist to play a certain way, and tells him to stop and switch it up when he wants a different mood. He tells his audience how to worship and how much money to give him.” On the other hand, “But, as you look around the room and see men and women worshiping God with abandon, you realize something. Maybe these people, who trust and believe Hinn, are actually having authentic experiences with Jesus, despite the man guiding them. Maybe these people are actually finding genuine faith in a place that is otherwise tinged by deceit.”
  • Repent! The End is Near! – What was once the domain of fear-mongerers born out of religious zeal, is now the province of secularists. “Today, it’s secularists who predict the end of the world with absolute certainty. If we don’t turn from our environmental sins, global warming will consume the earth in a fiery apocalypse. Just as the priests of old laid out their scrolls, today’s prophets of doom point to their computer models and tell us with absolute certainty that our planet is toast unless we turn aside from our pleasures (i.e. driving, affordable electricity, economical foods) and live an austere life of sacrifice.” Author David Murrow on the works-based religion of secularism.
  • Christmas Scenes Breaking a Commandment – Are Nativity images depicting Jesus not a violation of the second commandment? “I am compelled to avoid all images of Christ. From the statues of Jesus on people’s vehicle dashboards to illustrations on covers of theological books (which I wrap in brown paper), images of Jesus are embedded in even our culture at large… Because what I want is not less Jesus in my life, but more… I am not taking Christ out of my life. Instead, I am making room for more of him.” Reading this article may be the end of every Bible story book in your home.
  • Shameless Promotion of Personal Friends – David Wesley’s album Basement Praise is an a cappella collection of multi-track, layered vocals known to his 21,000 YouTube followers, and makes a great cross-generational gift.

And several other stories tracked this week:

Paul's Missionary Trip Route - Theologygrams

December 3, 2014

Wednesday Link List

First King Sized Bed

Today we’re blending the new format detailed links that appeared on PARSE on Monday with the regular serving we offer here.

  • The Medium is Contradicting The Message - “I want to attend a conference one day about being small, authentic, and missional at a church that is small, authentic, and missional. I want to read a book about overcoming the success syndrome written by a pastor who, in the eyes of the world, looks like a failure. I want to hear from the pastor whose story didn’t have a happy ending, and yet who still clings to the fact that Jesus is enough.” The choices of locations, books and speakers are often subtracting from the message.
  • Fruitful and Multiplying - “In the Bible, one of the first things God says to humankind is to be fruitful and multiply. That command predates the Ten Commandments and just about every other commandment in the Bible. God wants us to have kids. But just how fruitful do we need to be? … I’ve been to thousands of church services and lots of Christian men’s events. I can’t ever recall the topic of vasectomies coming up.”
  • The Apostle Paul’s Cool Factor – We often look at the Acts 17 speech and think of Paul warming up the crowd like a late night talk show host’s opening monologue. “You see, in Paul’s world, the hottest commodity was honor or reputation. It wasn’t dying with the most toys that mattered—it was dying with the highest number of honors recognized by the most number of people, popularity through status and virtue.” On that score, Paul definitely bucked the trend.
  • Worship Leading for the Benefit of the Congregation – I know music-related articles are ubiquitous, but in many congregations, the worship time is more than half of the total service. This article by Carlos Whittaker was refreshing. “If you have a tendency to want to make out on the first date, keep it to your love life, not your song selection. Oceans is a great example. Our church introduced the bridge to that song mixed in with other choruses. We took it slowly. I know some friends that, although eventually catching on, that song was almost lost because they did it TOO MUCH TOO FAST …” Four overlooked steps in choosing songs.
  • When the Script Differs from the Scriptures – Not sure what it says about the forthcoming movie Exodus: God and Kings if the actor playing Moses finds him to be “likely schizophrenic and was one of the most barbaric individuals that I ever read about in my life.” Matt Perman writes, “That is quite something to say about one of the greatest figures in at least two major world religions…” A quick look at the movie’s namesake sets the record straight.
  • The Gift of Discouragement – These days every kid gets a trophy. We still joke in our house about our oldest’s announcement that his team ‘won the soccer tournament.’ They did not. Not by a long-shot. But sometimes raw honesty can be a gift to your child. “[M]y mom told me I stunk as a pitcher. After that, I quit pitching. In today’s parenting culture, my mother would be raked over the coals for not being encouraging enough or supporting me or helping me dream big.” But discouragement is not disheartening.
  • When It’s Time to Leave Your ChurchEvery story plays out differently, and local and denominational policies may mean having to work within a fixed process. Much seems to depend on the attitude with which the task is approached. “It was both a matter of integrity and practicality to immediately inform a handful of the most obvious leaders of our church of my plans to transition out. Soon after, I invited them to my home and asked them to guide my decisions by becoming my personal ‘transition team.’ From that first monthly meeting, every decision would be a “we” decision, which paid off later for the church.”
  • Thanksgiving is More Religious Than Christmas – Last week I spoke with a woman whose family—and extended family—exchanges gifts the first week in December, in order that the focus on Christmas Day itself will be all about Christ. I thought of her when I read this article, though as the new car advertisement says, ‘Your mileage may vary;’ we each experience the holidays differently in our family, economic and cultural contexts. See if you agree with 7 Reasons Thanksgiving is Way Better Than Christmas.
  • Talking Tech – The next billion people to join the internet won’t be doing so on a Mac, PC or tablet. “Any mission agency, any national church, any ministry, especially in the Majority World, which does not have mobile at the top of its agenda, is failing to understand God’s plan for effective communication.” Hyperbole perhaps, but worth considering.

Then there’s today’s PARSE offerings (send them some stats love and read at source!)

  • A Convert to Short-Term Missions – It was the church choosing who would go that changed Jamie Wright’s mind: “Most of us don’t go to churches who let anybody who feels like it get up and preach on Sunday morning. We don’t let the first guy to jump on stage with a tambourine lead us in worship. We don’t let every volunteer who walks through the door feeling “called” hold our babies on their lap, or – God forbid – count our money! We are constantly making decisions about who should do what within the framework of the church, but we balk at the idea of choosing our missionaries.”
  • Where’s The Faith? – How is it that Downton Abbey, a show set in an era when religious faith was so much more central, seems to skirt the topic? “As a practicing Catholic, perhaps [the program’s writer Julian] Fellowes is suggesting that faith and material riches are incompatible. If that is his point, he’s in good company. Jesus frequently talks in terms that should frighten the wealthy: the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16) or the story of the Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12), to whom he said: ‘life does not consist in an abundance of possessions’(Luke 12:15).” “What remains unclear is whether [God’s] omission is a strange oversight or if he’s actually been written out.”
  • Seeker Sensitive Hindsight is 20/20 – At the outset: “I believe that the Seeker Movement was (and still is) a movement of God. It was not a movement without flaws and excesses, but it was a movement that woke us up to the fact that the primary mission of the Church is to make disciples, and that that mission begins with connecting Jesus to those not yet connected to him. …[T]he Seeker Movement put mission back into the center of the life of the church.” On reflection however, there were some byproducts of that emphasis that the writer regrets.
  • One Last Thanksgiving Debrief – Remember that time your high school small group leader asked, ‘What’s the opposite of love?’ and everybody said ‘hate’ and then he explained it’s really fear?  So what’s the opposite of “thanksgiving?” This answer is both surprising and satisfying: “While this may be human nature, nothing good comes of it.  Mark Twain said, ‘Comparison is the death of joy.’  For when we look and see someone else’s blessings, we suddenly have no appreciation of our own.”
  • Getting Back on the Horse – After being airlifted back to the United States and then surviving Ebola, Dr. Rick Sacra wants to get back in the game. The soonest he can go back to Monrovia is January and that’s his intention, especially since he is now immune to the disease. He makes this observation: “I think this is going to have just as big of an impact [as the civil war]. When the Ebola epidemic is over there’s going to be a rebuilding of institutions.”
  • Essay of the Week – First kiss at 24. Married at 36. “I wanted nothing to do with marriage and children of my own because of what I experienced growing up. I was terrified of being bound in a marriage like my parents’ abusive relationship. And since I wasn’t going to have a life partner, I figured that I wouldn’t have children either. I wasn’t about to raise a child on my own. I had to nurture my career first and foremost, because my career had to be number one in my life. I had to devote most of my energy to supporting myself, since I didn’t trust a man to support me. Rely on a man, and he might trap you. Better to be self reliant and safe.” The honest confessions of a late bloomer.
  • The Best Christmas Music in Town – If your church aims for artistic excellence, it’s possible some paid, professional musicians are brought in to augment the church choir and orchestra. But this challenges the notion that God has given the people of that church all of the necessary spiritual gifts they need. Perhaps a lot depends on what exactly you mean by artistic excellence.
  • Canada’s Best Kept Television Secret – Lorna Dueck is host and executive producer of Context, a weekly half-hour documentary format with a live studio audience. Her journalistic skills combine with a good sense of trending topics. On this recent episode, on the rise of “the nones” Canadian pastor Bruxy Cavey meets up with two of the country’s best loved comedians for an interview and then she is joined by the two academic researchers at the heart of Regent University’s Reframe film project.   So… does God have a PR problem? (30 minute video)
  • A Great Script and An Incredible Story - This Kickstarter project is ambitious and involves people with solid experience in various aspects of the motion picture industry. How ambitious? They’re looking for $300,000 just to make the trailer. That would then pave the way for a distribution deal. The animated movie would release in Fall 2017 and show the origins of good and evil began before humanity existed.


Our graphic is from InterVarsity’s 2100 Productions (click image for more):

Recipe for a Praise and Worship Song from 2100 Productions

November 26, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Filed under: links — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:51 am

Christmas Cover Christianity

Our upper image today comes from the cover of Christianity, the leading Evangelical magazine in the U.K.

Not sure exactly where on Twitter I found this, but the caption should be obvious:

Palm Tree

November 19, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Rowan and Rowena - The Bishop Bears

Stay here to read classic Wednesday links, or visit PARSE to view nine selected stories with more preview info.

The above image from the Ship of Fools archives seemed appropriate given that women can now officially be bishops in the Church of England.


With all the many challenges that gay couples face, I honestly didn’t think of this one:

Name Problem


November 12, 2014

Wednesday Link List


We continue our scintillating series of celebrity photos with this dinnerware shot by Matthew Paul Turner

We continue our scintillating series of Christian author photos with this dinnerware shot by Matthew Paul Turner

Welcome back to classic format Wednesday Link List…

Here’s a cartoon left over from our weekend look at Beetle Bailey:


November 5, 2014

Wednesday Link List

You're not really showing up at the church potluck (or pot-blessed) supper unless you're showing up with a zippered casserole carrier inscribed with the verse, "Serve one another in love."

You’re not really showing up at the church potluck (or pot-blessed) supper unless you’re showing up with a zippered casserole carrier inscribed with the verse, “Serve one another in love.”

Places to go; people to meet!

We end today where we started last week; another movie parody poster from the Orange curriculum. Click the image for details.

Orange Curriculum Parody Poster 2

October 29, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Orange Curriculum Parody Poster

Our graphic image theme this week is parody. The upper one is a supplement to the Orange Curriculum, a weekend service Christian education experience for children. You can click on the image and then surf the rest of the web page to learn more.

A bumper harvest this week; get coffee first.

The rest of the week Paul Wilkinson offers you a daily choice between trick at Thinking Out Loud, or treat at Christianity 201.

What a Mug I Have of Coffee

October 22, 2014

Wednesday Link List

John Calvin Pumpkin

Can you guess who that is in the pumpkin?  Details below.

Welcome to the World Series of Christian news and opinion stories. Two teams: People who are screaming to be heard, and people with stories they wish we didn’t know.

 We leave you with the many creative camera angles of The Phil Vischer Podcast. (Bonus points for naming the guests in the comment section.)

Phil Vischer Podcast YouTube


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